Things I Know 53 of 365: The hypotheticals aren’t looking so good

Sixty kids in a class strikes me as a lot.

On average, I teach about 30 kids at a time. In moments when the controlled chaos gets to be a little out of control, 30 feels like it could be 60.

If 60 ever got out of control (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) I suppose that would start to feel like 120.

Last night, I was asked, “What do you think the GOP is thinking by decimating school budgets? I mean, do they really think that 60 kids in a class in Detroit will be anything other than civil war?”

I took the hypothetical bait and started playing out how I would teach in an chronically economically depressed inner-city school where the average class size was 60 students.

It didn’t take long.

In my hypotheticals (and I’m guessing in GOP lawmakers hypotheticals) I’m not in that classroom.

Education is the largest chunk of combined state and local budgets, and teachers are the largest chunk of that chunk.

If you want to save money, eliminate the teachers.

And if you want to back up your argument, trot out selected passages from Christensen, Johnson and Horn’s Disrupting Class. Not the whole book. Present only the pieces of their argument that sound like they back up your plan.

Cite budget deficits and slowly lay off the most junior of your teaching force. This will leave your most senior teachers with little patience and overflowing classrooms.

Some will stick it out, but many will decide things have gone too far and take an early retirement.

You won’t have to worry about much standing in the way of finding reasons to fire the hangers on as you already broke collective bargaining when you destroyed the last vestiges of a collective.

You’d think you’ve saddled yourself with an ugly mess at this point, but this is where the truly beautiful part comes in.

Again, you’ll have the benefit of bastardizing Christensen, Johnson and Horn.

For a fraction of a cost, say $25K each, you hire aides – half hall monitors, half data entry specialist – to oversee the computer labs with which you’ve outfitted your school buildings. Sixty kids to a room starts to sound like a low-ball estimate, so you start to schedule kids in shifts, using the computer rooms around the clock – constantly overseen by what we’ll label education accountants.

It looks like there’s a hole in the plan. All the capital outlay for those computers is going to set you back.

Don’t worry.

Some multi-billionaire benefactor will step in and his foundation will donate the proprietary technology to stock your learning centers.

It will be a happy coincidence the students in your learning centers develop an unquestioning brand loyalty to the corporation founded by your multi-billionaire benefactor in his previous life.

It will be another happy coincidence that the proprietary brand loyalty will quietly suffocate the open source movement that threatened the corporate donors who filled your re-election coffers.

So, you’ll have your closed system. You’ll eliminate your greatest cost, you’ll increase learning production, you’ll increase consumer production (the production of consumers), and you’ll find a place for most of the young people from your electorate.

Most of the young people.

See, what you will be creating is the “public option.”

You won’t be eliminating all teaching positions or schools. The private options will still exist.

You’ll send your kids there.

Your donors will send their kids there.

The best teachers from the old model (many of them likely the most seasoned) will fight tooth and nail to cling to the profession they love. They might disagree heartily with the new way of doing things. You don’t have to worry about that. They’re not a collective anymore, so their voices will be mere whispers on the wind.

So, your children and your donors’ children will be educated. The public option will fit the needs of your electorate. You’ll eliminate the majority of your budget deficit. And, all will be right with the world.

In the early days, you’ll hear grumblings from the disenfranchised about the morlocks and the eloi, but such hesitancy is to be expected in times of great innovation.

11 thoughts on “Things I Know 53 of 365: The hypotheticals aren’t looking so good

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  2. I loved this post. Thanks for writing it. One part troubled me a little and I wanted to clarify. You said:”Cite budget deficits and slowly lay off the most junior of your teaching force. This will leave your most senior teachers with little patience and overflowing classrooms.”One could read that you are saying that the most senior teachers lack the patience of junior teachers. I would take issue with this claim and suggest that many teachers who are dedicated to the work and pursuit of learning get more, not less, patient over time. This interpretation also has the potential to fall into the trap of teachers denigrating fellow teachers over something as arbitrary as age. Being a consistent reader of your blog, this reading of that section doesn't seem to fit your larger philosophy but I wanted to clarify just the same.

    • Molly,

      Thanks for the benefit of the doubt. The point I was attempting to make in
      that sentence was that fewer teachers leaves larger classes which degrades
      patience.

      I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was oddly fun to write.

      – Zac

  3. Well, at least I didn't read this on a Monday (!) All sadly true! But don't forget to add the imposition of the Common Core Standards and their FOUR SUMMATIVE exams PER YEAR in ELA and Math to truly beat down the students that are left and leave no doubt as to where they “fit” in the new regime regarding competition for college and work. Sometimes I wonder how we pick our heads up off the pillow. But we must.

  4. I have also been thinking about this magic number, the “Detroit 60,” all week, and stewing about it. Great post. However, I don't think this is partisan anymore. I think those who govern, regardless of party, are treating education as commerce, and have absolutely no clue what its purpose is-or should be. It is going to get much, much worse. We are going to lose many of the good ones.And the kids will continue to suffer.http://bit.ly/ffd6dF

  5. Pingback: Things I Know 116 of 365: Something’s rotten at the Core at Autodizactic

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